PR Campaigns – The blog

November 6, 2008

Who’s Speaking for You?

Filed under: CAST Communication — asbrooks04 @ 11:16 am

I stumbled upon a blog by Len Gutman writing for Vally PR Blog (right here in Phoenix) called Choose the Right Person for Your Product and thought this might be a good topic as we were discussing in class the other day how to determine who should, and should not, be a spokesperson for your organization, product or client. In the post, Gutman talks about a recent interview General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz did with Stephen Colbert on his Comedy Central show promoting the new Chevy Volt electric car. I actually saw this episode of the Colbert report and thought it was odd how non-chalant Lutz was about the new car but didn’t really think about it from a PR point of view until I saw this post.

In the Colbert interview (the video is in the post), Lutz gives some very dry and unflattering answers to Colbert’s quips about how unsexy an electric car is and its lack of race car-style speed. Gutman concludes in his post that Lutz succeeded only in undermining the product by his lack of enthusiasm.

What I find interesting also about this post are the two comments: one which responds that Lutz’s unpolished, laidback approach is refreshing in an overly polished media/publicity scene, and one saying that while the interview is pretty funny, Lutz was obviously the wrong guy for GM to send for this product. Also, looking at it now, it does seem that Lutz was an odd choice for an interview that would be viewed by a largely liberal audience that would likely be very much for the idea of an electric car. I personally would have chosen someone more enthusiastic, and probably younger.

Do you think that the comic relief of this publicity opportunity was a complete turn off to consumers? Or, that GM’s message came across regardless of Lutz’s offbeat, and off point, answers. Would Lutz have been a better spokesperson for a different crowd, like at an automotive design convention, and someone more upbeat would be better suited to an audience at the Colbert Report?

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7 Comments »

  1. I think that GM should have chosen someone who would have conveyed excitement about the electric car. If the spokesperson can’t get excited about it, how does the company expect consumers to get excited and want to purchase the product? Further, if the spokesperson for the company isn’t excited and confident in the electric car, it will be that much harder for the company to establish itself as a reputable brand and something that auto owners should consider.

    If there was more than one spokesperson for GM’s electric car, they should’ve researched the Colbert Report for the style and audience to find someone who would’ve excelled in that area. After all, part of being a good PR person is knowing background on the host, the show and the audience. The same is true for print and online forms of media.

    Comment by ccharvey — November 10, 2008 @ 9:33 pm | Reply

  2. I saw this episode too, and while watching it I was in hysterics that GM would send Lutz to speak on behalf of their product to a crowd that would eat him alive. It goes back to knowing your audience. The Colbert Report’s audience is predominantly young, left of center people, and Lutz just did not fit in. Also, it seems that GM should have known that Colbert is notorious for cornering his guests and inevitably putting them on the spot (which is hilarious). I think it would have been more appropriate of GM to send a spokesperson who would have better conveyed the positive aspects of their product, rather than someone who was completely out of his element.

    Comment by letsgoblogging — November 11, 2008 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  3. When watching this video I just can’t imagine what his PR people were thinking. I wonder if Lutz insisted that he go on or if they really thought that it could work to their advantage. I think that it was a humorous segment, but as a family of loyal Chevy owners I was embarrassed to see this. It did nothing to further a positive image of GM or put a better light on what they are doing. As we have talked about in class, corporations have bad connotations associated with them innately. This would have been a good opportunity to challenge that, but I think that Lutz only promoted the negative stereotypes. If I was his PR person watching this I would have had to close my eyes.

    Comment by agilliam — November 11, 2008 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

  4. I agree that a spokesperson younger and more enthusiastic would have been more appropriate for the Colbert audience. I think this was a perfect opportunity to reach their probable target audience. It is important to consider what your goal is when doing any kind of publicity. Also when hiring a spokesperson such as a celebrity or sports icon it is important to know their personal beliefs in relations to your product or message. It is also important to know the public opinion of the hired spokesperson.

    Comment by erikanp2004 — November 11, 2008 @ 12:23 pm | Reply

  5. Lutz may not have been the best guy for this, but I can’t see how it would people would be turned off by this. GM should have gone with a younger, more enthusiastic person. One would think that GM would have more carefully considered their spokesperson choice.

    Comment by davemerenda — November 11, 2008 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

  6. I agree that knowing the situation, type of media, spokesperson and audience are all key in presenting your product/client. A thing another key issue in this post is knowing how to use comedy. I often see professionals attempt to reach their audience through comedic ways and fail miserably. It’s a great way to try to reach an audience, especially a younger crowd, but you have to make sure you do it effectively. If it bombs, the product/client will just come out looking foolish.

    Comment by cclark2 — November 11, 2008 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

  7. I think this is the perfect example of why companies need make better selections of who speaks for them as well as provide better training for them. Lutz should have better understand the audience he was speaking to and just by that he would have done a whole lot better. So many times I have seen people doing interviews on shows like “The Today Show” where they seem so unenthusiastic about the product or event they are promoting. If they aren’t interested, why should we be?

    Comment by trentonhorne — November 13, 2008 @ 1:34 pm | Reply


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